American Gangster

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Happy Birthday Denzel Washington | December 28th, 1954

It’s simple: You get a part. You play a part. You play it well. You do your work and you go home. And what is wonderful about movies is that once they’re done, they belong to the people. Once you make it, it’s what they see. That’s where my head is at. 

Jay-Z’s tenth studio album American Gangster was released nine years ago today, back in 2007. There is no doubt It is one of Hov’s most underrated albums and is a rap classic. 

Having announced the album just two weeks before its release, it debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, selling 426,000 copies in its first week. AG is the album that tied Hov with Elvis Presley for the second-most American number-one albums. He has since passed Presley to be the top solo artist, with only the Beatles ahead of him.

Inspired by the film of the same name, Hov explained in an interview with the New York Times that “it immediately clicked with [him.] Like ‘Scarface,’ or any one of those films, you take the good out of it, and you can see it as an inspiring film.” Of course he had spoken on gangster themes and its popular culture standing throughout his storied career, but had never delved so deeply into the concept. The listeners were rewarded with an album full of depth, with each track inspired by a specific scene.

When asked by Charlie Rose about how the film gave life to this album, Jigga stated: “It’s a New York City true story, you know. So as soon as the movie came on, it was like familiar, things that my pop seen and my uncles seen and, you know, different things like that, things I’ve seen growing up. So they resonated with me in a way, the story, as well as, I mean, even though everything happens, you know, the way it turns out, you know, it’s one of those movies that where you champion the bad guy, because the bad guy, you know, he don’t seem like a bad guy, and the good guy - I mean the good guys are bad. You know, that complex - the complexity of human beings in this thing was amazing to me. I loved the complexity of the human beings”

Under the guidance of Diddy, every track on the album was built around 70′s soul and funk samples to mirror the movie’s time-period. Although Hov hadn’t heard much of Frank Lucas until seeing the film, he recognized many parts of himself in Lucas and his demeanor. The album was intended to “take you through this journey - his journey, my journey - so many people’s journey that come from the areas that we come from.” I think we can all agree he succeeded. “Blue Magic” was the album’s lead single, and is a standout track from the project. It is one of my favorite tracks of all-time and remains one of the best displays of Jay-Z’s unmatched flow, wordplay and rhyme patterning. 

Peter “PISTOL PETE” Rollack

: Pistol Pete and the Sex Money Murder gang were the scourge of the Soundview section of the Bronx back in the day. He was known as one of the richest, most feared and powerful men in New York during the crack era and could get people killed on his word alone. He turned his neighborhood red in more ways than one and continued to exert his influence even after his incarceration.